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Moscow Woman's Sci-Fi Collection Becomes U of I's Treasure

December 14, 2017

This article was written by Taylor Nadauld and published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Read the original article here.

 

Longtime Moscow resident and science fiction enthusiast Victoria Mitchell had spent decades collecting sci-fi-themed books, art, costumes and documents over the course of her career.

A member of the Palouse Empire Science Fiction Association and a founding member of Moscow's annual science fiction convention, MosCon, Mitchell spent a large portion of her life absorbed in the world of sci-fi culture before she died in April at the age of 62.

Now, her memory will live on in the University of Idaho Library's Special Collections and Archives, as staff and students spend the next few months sorting through at least 325 boxes and a collection of approximately 5,000 sci-fi books to be displayed in the years to come.

"One of the things about this particular collection is it's unique in both its scope and its depth," U of I Library Dean Lynn Baird said, adding the collection will make the Moscow area more ripe for scholarship.

The U of I is now one of two research institutions in the Pacific Northwest to house such a broad sci-fi collection. The next nearest trove is located at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

"It's significant for a couple different reasons," U of I archivist Ashlyn Velte said. "It gives us a collection that will have both research interests and that it documents the science fiction community at a time before everyone knew about things like Comic Con."

Erin Stoddart, head of Special Collections and Archives at the U of I Library, introduced Mitchell's collection to a handful of U of I faculty and students Friday at the U of I's new Integrated Research and Innovation Center, where it will be stored until it can be cleaned, so as not to contaminate other collections.

Stoddart said the collection was given to the U of I in Mitchell's will, to the surprise of Stoddart and the rest of the library staff.

Though Mitchell studied geology at the University of California, Berkeley, she also has a history at the U of I, where she earned her master's degree in geology in 1980 and worked as a research support scientist for the Idaho Geological Survey through the university.

Prior to her death, Mitchell was preparing to earn her doctorate in environmental science.

But even amid her study of the hard sciences, Mitchell managed to save room for fantasy, publishing her own science fiction novel, "Enemy Unseen," one of several Star Trek-themed books she penned throughout her life. The novel became a New York Times bestseller in 1990.

Over the summer, Special Collections and Archives staff gathered more than 300 boxes of material from Mitchell's home, making multiple transports to the IRIC building on the U of I campus.

"It was all staff on deck," Stoddart said.

A handful of guests got their first glimpse of the collection in an otherwise empty room in the IRIC last week. Amid hundreds of white boxes packaging Mitchell's collection: a stack of unpublished manuscripts; Mitchell's novel "Windows on a Lost World;" a colorful, beaded costume; and artwork from the 1979 MosCon.

By the end of the month, the collection will be transferred to the U of I Library, where it will undergo more detailed sorting before it joins other collections including the International Jazz Collections, the Potlatch Corporation Historical Archives, the James A. McClure papers and other institutional and state archives.

As for other collections the U of I might collect in the future, Stoddart said running out of space is "a major problem this university will need to address."

 

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at uidaho.edu